46: Wonder Puppy

46: Wonder Puppy

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog

Wonder Puppy

Fun fact: For dogs that don’t fear umbrellas, people can purchase a wearable “pet umbrella” to keep Fido dry when he’s outside.

Young and just married, we’d moved into our first home. It was small, run-down, and in a marginal neighborhood, but it was close to where I attended graduate school and an easy commute to my husband’s job. It boasted a patch of green yard that we called the “back forty.” Now all we needed was a dog.

At the Humane Society, we picked out the one puppy that seemed “mellow” to us, as we weren’t sure how well we’d cope with “rambunctious.” We took her home to our bungalow and put her in the tiny garden amid the lavender and nasturtiums. There she sat, and then she lay down. Mellow didn’t begin to cover it. Unaware that this was not normal puppy behavior, we thought she was lovely. We debated various names, and decided that “Hot Tub” best reflected our puppy’s zen-like vibe.

Of course, when I took Hot Tub for her first veterinary check-up, the kind doctor explained why our pet had such low energy: worms, infections, and some other disease… I don’t remember the exact diagnosis, but I remember the bill. We were appalled. But we paid the vet and bought the medications, and before long, Hot Tub was wearing her moniker with a big dose of irony. We were learning to cope with rambunctious after all.

We knew nothing of Hot Tub’s genetic heritage, but it was soon apparent that she had descended from a line of vigilant watchdogs. She leapt onto the couch to keep watch out the big front window and barked at every person who walked by. She barked extra for people with strollers. Or hats. She barked at dogs, bikes, motorcycles and birds. She even barked at moths. We tried to quiet her because we were worried she’d bother our neighbors.

Her worst enemy was Umbrella. The first rainy day when I tried to walk Hot Tub while holding an umbrella, I thought she’d lost her mind. She barked, ran in circles at the end of her leash, and charged at me. Finally, I realized she was attacking my umbrella. She didn’t stop until I closed it. We finished our walk with rain pelting my head.

Each time I left for classes, I assured Hot Tub I’d return soon. I made sure she had her comfy bed, plenty of water and her favorite rope chew toy. Then I closed the kitchen door to keep her in the linoleum-floored room where she’d be safe and quiet.

One afternoon about a month after Hot Tub had moved in, a secretary from the registrar’s office hurried over as I was leaving class.

“There was a 9-1-1 call at your house,” she said. “Some kind of emergency.”

I jumped on my bike and sped down the hill, tearing through intersections and passing cars in my rush to get home.

A police cruiser sat in our driveway, lights blinking blue. I raced up the front steps, unlocked the door and rushed straight for the kitchen.

Hot Tub greeted me there with gleeful wiggling. She wagged. She squealed. She whined. She squirmed. She rolled over for a belly rub. She barked.

Next to her on the kitchen floor was our fancy new landline phone with a big red button that had been pre-programmed for making emergency calls.

BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP, it was now shrilling.

I hung up the phone and carried happy Hot Tub outside. Our neighbors had gathered, and together with the bemused cop, we pieced the story together. The police dispatcher had received a 9-1-1 call from our phone. She could hear only agitated breathing, and believing it was someone in distress, she sent out the patrol car.

Hot Tub — bored, anxious, curious, or all three — had gotten hold of the dangling phone cord, pulled the phone off the kitchen counter, and stepped on that big 9-1-1 button. She appeared quite pleased that she’d succeeded in summoning assistance and companionship.

We had tried to keep Hot Tub out of our neighbors’ way, figuring that we needed to train her to be presentable first. Now, here were the neighbors, cooing and fussing over the adorable puppy. They dubbed her “Wonder Puppy” for her ability to use the latest technology to call help.

The police recommended we move our telephone. They were understanding, but said that if we had another false alarm they’d have to charge us for the cost of responding.

Hot Tub had been with us only a month and already we were in trouble with the law. Maybe we weren’t meant to have a dog. She wouldn’t let me use an umbrella. She barked at our neighbors. She chewed our furniture. She puked on our rugs.

She summoned the police.

How could we keep her out of trouble? What other mess would she get us into? Should we reconsider the whole thing?

The next day, when I bought dog kibble, I chose the small bag.

But we’d underestimated our dog.

Just three nights later, in the middle of the night, a low growl woke me up. I had never heard that sound before, from either the mellow Hot Tub we’d once known, or from Hot Tub the Wonder Puppy.

“Do you hear that?” I hissed to my husband. The growl grew louder. We got out of bed and crept toward the disturbing noise.

As soon as Hot Tub saw us, she started barking her familiar high-pitched puppy bark. But beneath it, she was still growling. Her tail stood out behind her at an angle, like a flagpole. The hairs on the back of her neck were raised.

Hot Tub was staring straight at the closed laundry-room door. On the other side of that door sat our compact washer/dryer, and beyond that, the back door. Was that a rattling sound coming from our back door?

My husband flung open the laundry-room door.

AAACK!

I couldn’t help the scream. In the window of the back door, I saw the dim outline of a face, peering in at us.

I shrieked again, this time with more feeling. The intruder fled, disappearing into the darkness.

For the second time in three days, the police visited our house. They inspected our back door and concluded we’d interrupted somebody breaking in. They said an armed intruder had been reported in the area. He had vanished, and they didn’t expect him to return to our house. We were lucky to have such an alert dog, the police told us.

Needless to say, Hot Tub the Wonder Puppy, stayed.

For the next fifteen years, Hot Tub taught us what we needed to know about living with a dog. She graduated from obedience school, helped us make friends with the neighbors, survived multiple emergency veterinary visits and one serious illness, traveled with us to parts near and far, and in the end, trusted us to know when her time had come. And during all that time, in Hot Tub’s home, no neighbor passed by unnoticed, no nighttime intruder entered, and not a single umbrella was allowed to unfurl.

~Christy Mihaly

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